It’s not the flashiest position, but being diligent with it can help carry you to a championship. The tricky part is sticking with it as it (inevitably) turns on a dime a few times during the season.
1. Raisel Iglesias notches a career high 35 saves this year.
To be candid, this is one more than he had in 2019, but I think Raisel has a chance to impress many this year. It sounds very much like he is THE exclusive holder of saves this year and he has sported an amazing sub-2.75 ERA during four of the last five years. He has displayed one pitch with over a .250 batting average, his 2019 sinker which he used just 10% of the time. He worked on it and it became his strongest pitch in 2020, with a 38.5% whiff rate and a .154 batting average against. Expect more improvements this season.
2. 12 different Rays pitchers notch a save in 2021.
The Rays are among the top teams in utilizing everything and the kitchen sink to notch a save. In 2019 Emilio Pagan, Diego Castillo, Jose Alvarado, Colin Poche, Oliver Drake, Peter Fairbanks, Chaz Roe, Jalen Beeks, Hunter Wood, Adam Kolarek, and Aaron Slegers all notched saves. Sometimes its due to injuries, sometimes it’s next man up, sometimes it’s to test younger or depth pitchers—either way, Tampa has done well to cultivate a deep group of arms year in and out.
3. Kirby Yates has a sub-1.50 ERA this year.
He did it in 2019 and Toronto has a lot of hype and changes implemented this year which could be marvelous or disastrously slow to develop and mesh. Of course this prediction means he comes down considerably from his 12.46 ERA he posted last season in San Diego (only 4.1 innings). Let’s hope the bone chips in his elbow was the entire reason for the fall, and that after his surgery he’s ready to return to normal. I refuse to believe what we saw last year is the future for one of the most talented closers in the game.
4. The Twins have three closers with over 10 saves.
Taylor Rogers might be splitting this up more than normal and I believe that Hansel Robles and Alex Colome can be more than capable. Add in the help that they get from a deep Twins batting corps (who won’t hit as many home runs as they did a few years ago but are still full of power) and you have recipe for a lot of save opportunities. I feel especially confident in Taylor Rogers and Alex Colome to be up near 15 apiece. Hansel Robles is the one that will be stretching to get to the 10-save mark.
5. Jordan Hicks is top five in the league in saves.
The Cardinals had a decent 2020, finishing second in the NL Central behind the Chicago Cubs. I think the Cubs are on a downswing, and the Pirates will remain in the basement. So, pending what happens with the Reds and Brewers, there is a prime spot for the Cardinals to own this division. St. Louis as a team has been among the top five in the majors in saves during 2017-2020. Jordan saw his save totals go from six in his rookie year to 14 in 2019. In 2019, his slider had a 57.8% whiff% and his changeup was at 70%. A healthy Hicks should have plenty of opportunity in 2021.